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Awaken the Shadowman (2017) Directed by J.S. Wilson




Great, another movie that has no idea what it is trying to be. It is a mishmash of multiple genre elements that just never click.

At first sight this movie seems straightforward enough. I mean, just look at the cover. Or just look at the title! This has got to be a another supernatural horror flick right? Well, not exactly. For most part this isn't even a horror movie. I would definitely call it more of a thriller instead, though there certainly still are plenty of horror moments and elements in the movie as well.

The problem with of all of it is that it fails to ever grab your attention. It is too slow at first and its mystery just isn't all that compelling to begin with. It is all some pretty standard stuff about a disappearance, in which things are never made either original or suspenseful. There is absolutely a lack of some good suspense and mystery throughout this movie, which shows especially at the start of it, when things are supposed to get you interested in the story and its characters.

I also definitely wouldn't say that the movie becomes much better once the horror elements start to kick in. Again, it is some pretty formulaic stuff all and nothing genuinely scary ever happens. It is creepy at best at times and I have to admit that the movie still seemed to have plenty of potential with its horror characters and other elements, if only things got incorporated more effectively into the movie.

Despite its low-budget it actually still remains a pretty well made movie. It has s good look to it and it certainly appears very professional, aside from a few clumsy moments. It is however the acting that still makes it apparent you aren't watching a big budget production here. The acting is quite terrible at parts, which also makes it hard to ever care for any of the characters.

But really, it is not a terrible movie by any means. It is just an incredibly ineffective one, that besides special or surprising. More messy than bad, but a far from recommendable movie nevertheless.

5/10

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Death Fighter (2017) Directed by Toby Russell




Well, this movie is really something. On the one hand I really admire and enjoy it as an action flick, but on the other it is still such a bad movie as well that I just can't recommend to anyone.

I generally enjoy action movies that feature a wide variety of action in it. Fist fights, some martial arts, gun fights, explosions. This movie definitely has all of that in it, which most definitely is also the reason why it still remains a remotely watchable one, since the story, characters and action are all incredibly lacking.

It is especially the acting that lets this movie down. It is not just bad, it is absolutely terrible! All of the actors are either terribly uncharismatic or they are hard to understand, since English isn't their native language. And nothing wrong with that of course, but it does become somewhat of a nuisance when 90% of the cast consists out of non-native English speaking actors.

The movie basically feels like a big waste of some wonderful locations and pretty decent looking action sequences. It at times still looks pretty clumsily, but generally speaking the action is pretty good and professionally shot. Certainly professionally choreographed as well! Most actors definitely lack acting skills, but they make up for this with the their moves and fighting skills. It is absolutely true that you forget everything else when the action is on screen. It is not quite enough to save the movie, but it at the very least does make it a pretty enjoyable one at parts.

I am still not really sure what the story was supposed to be all about. Just a bunch of good 'guys' against a bunch of bad 'guys'. That is often all you need to know and it is enough to help to make a movie go forward. Guess that is also true for this movie, till some extend at least. It remains somewhat annoying and confusing how the movie is constructed and doesn't even attempt to ever be anything remotely surprising or even well though out. It is lame, it is cheap, it is simple, but yet I am still convinced that some action movie lovers are still going to enjoy this movie, mainly also because of this very same straightforwardness and simplicity.

Some good action in an otherwise very poorly made movie. Watch at your own risk...

4/10

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A Beginner's Guide to Snuff (2016) Directed by Mitchell Altieri




While this movie loves to compare itself to a Coen brothers movie (the film-makers their own words, not mine), it is absolutely nothing like it, in terms of writing, comedy, characters and dialog. Just a stupid marketing trick, but also if you look past that there just isn't much to enjoy- and say positive about this movie.

It is one of those cases off 'it's too dark to be a comedy, but to silly and over-the-top to be a good dark movie.' It's a weird blend of horror and comedy ingredients, that constantly collide with each other. The more dark tones and horror aspects of the movie don't work out because of the comedy and the comedy aspects don't work out because of its sinister concept. Sure, there is such a thing as a 'dark comedy' and there are plenty of successful genre examples out there, but this one just isn't among those.

The movie is definitely too goofy for its own good. If I have to categorize this movie under one category I would definitely place it under 'comedy'. It is silly and very over-the-top with its story, situations and characters. It if very hard to take this movie ever seriously. And all of that would be fine, as long as the comedy is something good and enjoyable to enjoy. This however very rarely is the case. It just isn't the most clever or well written movie, especially when it comes down to the comedy. It seems to think that taking things over-the-top is enough to make people laugh and to come across as an original and creative enough movie, but it really isn't. The over-the-top comedy is not in tone with the rest of the movie and it never connects very well with any of its horror aspects. The themes and atmosphere of the movie are just too dark for its comedy.

But as a horror movie it also definitely falls short. From a movie featuring snuff themes in it, you would expect to gets lots of gore and tons of blood. Neither of that is present in this movie really. Most things happen off screen, which is a weird approach to take for any type of horror movie, let alone one that features snuff elements in it, or at least pretends to do so. So those expecting 'torture porn', forget about it. Not that I necessarily always need to see tons of blood and gore in a horror flick, but there at least needs to be something to either make it interesting or engaging to watch. This movie however offers nothing surprising, which means that it also features no good mystery, tension or shocks in it. In other words; nothing to really keep you interested in it.

It is also a problem that none of the characters are likable enough. I mean, after all, it is a movie about two guys who decide to kidnap a girl and make a snuff movie. How are we supposed to like- and care for these individuals? There are also never made likable enough through anything that happens in the movie and their characters never go through any interesting transitions. There are no real redeeming qualities when it comes down to the characters, but this basically goes for the movie as a whole as well.

It fails as a comedy, it fails as a horror and it definitely fails as a dark comedy as well. Never very enjoyable or engaging to watch. Just skip it.

4/10

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The Gracefield Incident (2017) Directed by Mathieu Ratthe




Ahh, my favorite thing in the world; a found footage movie! Yes, that was sarcasm, but of course I am still able to recognize and appreciate a good found footage movie when I see one. This one however isn't among those.

The found footage genre is an extremely overdone- and tiresome one by now and luckily it is slowing disappearing, as its loosing in popularity and it is not hard to see why. There is only so much you can do within the genre and everything has basically already be done to death. It is therefore hard to still come up with anything original nowadays, using the found footage approach. This movie fails to find an original approach as well, but what is even worse is the fact that it isn't handle its found footage elements very well.

First of all, the movie is put together poorly. Basically every character in the movie walks around with a camera, which is convenient for the movie, but at the same time also works out far from realistic, which is of course always an important aspect about a found footage flick. It besides is a far too slick looking movie. Visually it doesn't even remotely resemble an average found footage flick. Everything is framed perfectly, the camera never shakes too much and it always seems to be pointed into the right required. Half of the time you don't even realize you are watching a found footage flick, which on the one hand is a positive thing, but on the other negative as well, since the movie genuinely is trying to be an actual found footage movie. It however is very hard to ever take it serious as such.

Thing about found footage movies also is that you slowly need to set up the right mood, suspense and mystery for the movie. This movie however fails to do so, by basically throwing you right into the action. It also leaves very little to the imagination, by basically showing everything that is happening. Another reason why this movie rarely feels like a true found footage genre attempt. You know exactly what is going on, while the characters are all still trying to figure everything out. It is not a very effective approach and doesn't help to make you feel involved with any of them. It besides obviously ruins most of the tension and mystery for the movie as well.

Sure, it is still pretty original how the movie tries to combine science-fiction elements with horror elements, but the thing about it is that the movie is doing very little original and creative with it. The different genre elements blend in well with each other, but the movie simply has no idea how to use all of it and turn this movie into an original- or remotely effective enough one.

It is also true that most aspects get ruined by the acting. Honestly, it is quite terrible all and most definitely also a part of the reason why none of the suspense and other horror elements work out very well. Appearantly it is very hard to act surprised and scared, judging by this movie. The dialog also isn't the best, but really, it is still mostly the acting that ruins things.

Really not worth your time.

4/10

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Plan Z (2016) Directed by Stuart Brennan




Zombie movies are awesome! Well, not all of them, as this movie definitely shows.

It's true that most zombie movies are very basic ones and basically all of them do the same, but that doesn't mean that you can't be creative with your story and characters or be fun to watch, with plenty of entertaining zombie action and gore in it. This movie features none of this though, which makes it an extremely weak and lackluster genre attempt.

It basically is just another zombie survival story, in which a bunch of uninteresting characters try to survive yet another zombie outbreak. There isn't much else going on the movie, which is one of the main reasons why it fails to work out as a very original or engaging enough genre attempt. No good mystery, no good suspense, no good personal drama. I just can't think of any good reason why anyone should ever watch this movie. Even the most die hard fans of the zombie genre will feel disappointed by this movie, since there just isn't any good zombie action or fun present in it.

I don't get it. If you make a zombie movie, with a zero dollar budget, you should at least be able to still make it fun to watch. The film-makers were going for a more serious approach to the genre though, which is fine of them to do, but it really doesn't work out too well. It actually works against the movie and assures that you lose interest in it, pretty early on already. It also are the more dramatic side-plots of annoying flashbacks of the movie that make it such an incredibly uninteresting and ineffective one.

Needless to say that this movie never impresses with anything. The settings, the acting, the writing, the camera-work, the editing, the gore, it all feels very lacking. And I am sure there is a reason for it, but I still haven't figured out why all of the actors sound like they are talking through a walkie talkie. Low-budget zombie movies can definitely work out and there are countless of well known and respected examples of this, but this movie unfortunately has no idea how to be original, shocking or engaging enough with anything.

Seriously, just stay away from it, even if you are really into the genre.

3/10

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First Kill (2017) Directed by Steven C. Miller




Most movies aren't necessarily bad, they are just incredibly formulaic and therefore nothing more than mediocre. "First Kill" definitely is such a movie, that isn't doing things terribly wrong, but isn't ever doing things terribly well either.

It is an even slightly below average movie, which is not necessarily due to its lacking script, but its lacking execution instead. The movie really misses any form of good tension or a good enough mystery to turn this movie into an effective thriller. I don't think it is even fair to say that the script lacks good thriller elements, since all of the right ingredients were really there. It makes it all the more disappointing that the actual movie rarely works out as a good and effective enough genre movie. Hard to say if this movie truly would have been way better in the hands of a more capable director, but I am strongly leaning toward yes.

Not to put all the blame on director Steven C. Miller. but he never seemed ab;e to capture the right mood and set up the story and characters effectively enough for this movie. First of all, what does he think we are; a bunch of vampires? I just don't get why movies always are so keen on having a very dark atmosphere, while also being set mostly during the nighttime. A dark tone and atmosphere is fine, as long as there is some context to it as well. By simply being just dark you never create any context and simply create a unappealing and depressing look for your movie that, needless to say, isn't ever very inviting- or engaging enough to watch.

Thing like this already make it hard to get into a movie, but added to that gets the fact that things are never really made interesting, story-wise. There is never a sense of true danger and mystery, mostly due to the way how the characters handle their situation. The movie lacks any good emotions, which is also due to the acting. Hayden Christensen isn't a great leading, since he lacks the right kind of required charisma and emotions to carry his role of loving dad and main protagonist. He remains pretty emotionless throughout the entire movie, which seems a bit weird, seeing the things his characters has to go through. I also don't really know what Bruce Willis is doing in this movie. I would even say that his role is a very unnecessary one and maybe the movie would have been a better and more focused one without him in it. Willis isn't bad his role, but he nevertheless fails to make much of an impression with it.

But it is not just the acting, also the storytelling really lets this movie down. It just doesn't know how to ever set up any surprising, tense or mysterious moments. There of course are plenty of surprises, after all, it remains a thriller, but none of it really works out, since the movie fails to ever become a truly interesting and engaging one. Part of this is also due to the fact that the movie never flows very well and the movie its pace remains a tad bit too slow. Despite this, the movie still remains a fairly short one, though it most definitely feels much longer, which in this case isn't a very positive thing to say.

It otherwise actually remains a pretty well made movie. Despite its dark atmosphere, it still has a pretty good- and professional look to it. Certainly no amateurs at work here, though the movie still fails to work out on most levels. I can understand why some people would still be interested in this movie, judging by its trailers and images, but in the end it remains nothing more but a far too formulaic and poorly executed genre attempt.

Far from the worst thing ever, but honestly, why should you ever see this movie? I certainly don't have any answer to that.

5/10

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Lake Alice (2017) Directed by Ben Milliken




Talking about a mixed bag. I was really liking the movie at first, until its second half kicked. I won't say it completely ruined the movie, but it did ruin quite bit for me.

Crazy thing about this movie is that it is doing an awful lot right, but it still manages to mess up plenty of things as well. In some ways it really is an above average, low-budget, genre attempt, but in the end I still can't really recommend it to anyone. It is crazy how this movie lets things slip out of its hands, while it was well on its way to become a great and enjoyable genre attempt.

It is basically a whodunit, mixed in with some slasher elements. I really enjoy this approach and the build up to its mystery and suspense is all quite good. The movie has good pace, things are always progressing and the characters are all set up quite well, despite the fact that most are some very stereotypical ones. I however feel that in a way this was intentional. The movie knows what it wants and what it is trying to be. It is obvious that the film-makers know the genre well and use all of its clich├ęs in a pretty effective way. It is a real pleasant movie to watch, that appears to be good looking and well made, until its second half kicks in.

Once the movie goes all out with its slasher elements, the movie becomes a terribly ineffective and formulaic one. It is weird to see how poorly handled all of the slasher elements are. The build up, the suspense, it is all gone, while the movie was still doing such a great job with this in its first half. Even the gore and kills feel terribly disappointing, as does the big 'reveal' at the end. It is all so terribly ineffective and uninteresting. It is almost as if you are watching two completely different movies, that fail to connect with each other. Maybe it is also true that the second half of the movie is a bit too far over-the-top, compared to the rest of it. Going from subtle to extreme is something that only works out for a handful of movies. It still has to feel connected to each other all, which in this case it really doesn't.

In short; this movie is a great build up to a far from satisfying second half, that lets the movie down and even nearly turns it into terrible movie.

5/10

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